It is proposed to take No. 35, Education (Welfare) Bill, 1999 [Seanad] – Second Stage (resumed); No. 34, Stamp Duties Consolidation Bill, 1999 – Second Stage (resumed); and No. 2, Comhairle Bill, 1999 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. Private Members' business shall be No. 83, motion re carers and disability (resumed), to conclude by 8.30 p.m.
Order of Business.
Is the Taoiseach satisfied that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is in the United States giving lectures on the criminal justice system at a time when computerisation in the Garda Force cannot begin on time because of inadequate industrial relations between the Garda Síochána and the Minister's Department?
The matter was discussed on the Adjournment debate last night.
Yes, it was discussed and we did not receive answers. The Government just told us what the PULSE system is. We were not told whether the system would work and whether the people for whom it should operate would operate it. This is a failure of industrial relations and another example of the indecisiveness and come day, go day approach of the Government.
Does the Government intend introduce legislation to amend Article 28.4 of the Constitution specifically to alter the provisions for collective responsibility to enable the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to deny responsibility for actions that other Members of Cabinet might take?
Such legislation has not been promised.
If proposals are not being put forward, will the Taoiseach, as theprimus inter pares of the Government, ensure that the Government speaks with one voice?
I wish to raise with the Taoiseach the issue of accountability. I note that the Attorney General has been speaking on company law. He was also at the launch of the national plan. Effectively, he is becoming involved in pol icy matters, which is his prerogative. However, if he becomes involved in policy matters, he should be accountable to the House. Has the Taoiseach a view on how to make the Attorney General accountable to the House in areas other than quasi legal areas?
That matter is not appropriate to the Order of Business.
There is no change in the way in which the Attorney General carries out his business.
I wish to put another question on this important matter.
There must be order on the Order of Business.
I will not delay the House. Is the Taoiseach willing to take questions on the Attorney General's views during Taoiseach's Question Time?
Such questions are not in order on the Order of Business.
It is an important matter, if not for the order of the House—
This is the Order of Business for today.
The person to whom Deputy Noonan refers is quoted in today's newspaper as making a statement to the effect that the Government is considering setting up a special division of the High Court to fast track disputes in respect of planning applications and infrastructural development. On that point, does the Government intend to introduce legislation to facilitate such a separate division of the High Court?
Is such legislation promised?
The matter is under consideration. It is one of a number of matters being considered by the Government on how to speed up the infrastructural projects announced in the national plan.
My specific question to the Taoiseach is, does the Government intend to bring forward legislation and why did the Attorney General speak about the matter if it is not his responsibility?
I read the article in this morning's newspaper and it was correct to state that the Government is considering the matter. I did not see a reference to any statement, announcement or consideration by the Attorney General.
Does the Taoiseach consider it inappropriate for the Attorney General to offer his opinion on policy matters?
We cannot continue this discussion on the Order of Business.
As a former Taoiseach, I believe it inherently unsatisfactory that the Attorney General should express policy opinion on matters where he is the confidential legal adviser to the Government and that it would be in the best interests of coherent Government if the Attorney General forbore from making comments on policy issues.
The matter cannot be pursued at this stage. A final reply from the Taoiseach.
The Attorney General seems to be running the Government.
It is my view that the Attorney General has not interfered or made policy decisions. As a former Taoiseach, Deputy Bruton will be aware that it is common practice for the Attorney General to make lengthy statements on various issues. The present Attorney General has done nothing more than that.
Deputy Shatter on a new matter.
The report of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals which was laid before this House last week contains serious allegations and statements on the manner in which patients have been treated. Will the Government make time available before the Christmas recess for a debate on that report in this House?
That is a matter for the Whips.
The report was on the Order Paper laid before the House. I am entitled to a reply from the Taoiseach on whether there will be a debate on the matter.
A large number of Deputies wish to raise questions on the Order of Business and they cannot be accommodated if the Deputy continues to obstruct the business.
With respect, Sir, this report was on the Order Paper of this House. Given that the report was laid before the House, it is reasonable that I should ask the Taoiseach if time will be made available by the Government to debate it.
The Deputy should ask his question and resume his seat to allow the question to be answered because there are far too many offering. Does the Taoiseach wish to comment?
There is a series of reports on the Order Paper. It is a matter for the Whips to decide which one to bring forward. They do so irregularly because of the amount of business before the House. That can be debated if there is agreement, but it is a matter for the Whips to decide in regard to any such reports and there are several of them on the Order Paper.
In view of the large number of Deputies offering, I appeal to them not to make statements or to elaborate on their questions.
Has the Taoiseach set a date for the publication of the local government Bill?
Just before the local elections.
I have three questions for the Taoiseach. When is it intended to introduce the Wildlife Bill? Will it be before or after Christmas? When is it intended to give legal effect to an independent auditing board for the National Museum and the Botanic Gardens where there are only caretaker visitor boards at present? Will the Taoiseach confirm that section 20 of the Western Development Commission Act, 1998, has been deleted because the fund has not been seen since?
The Taoiseach may reply only on the question of the timing of the legislation as the other questions are not appropriate.
The first Bill is published but it has yet to be agreed when to take it. The question about the Western Development Commission Act, 1998, is a matter for a parliamentary question.
He wanted to abolish it in Westport.
He lost a seat there. He will not be going back there soon—
I set it up.
—and he said he would.
I launched it.
I appeal to Deputies not to waste time on the Order of Business.
The Deputy was disappointed.
The Deputy should table a parliamentary question in respect of the other questions.
There was a programme on television about it last night. Westport is a thriving part of the country. What was the second question?
The question on the National Museum and the Botanic Gardens.
What about Castlebar and Ballyhaunis?
All of the west is doing well; the west was never doing better.
It is well represented.
I do not have a date but I hope the national parks and historic properties Bill will be published during next year.
Whatever about the west, the health services are in trouble.
I appeal to Deputies to ask questions.
I will be brief.
All the Deputy is doing is preventing other Deputies from asking their questions.
She is following the Taoiseach's example.
Deputy McManus, please ask the question.
The Government is now in conflict with all its members of the European Parliament.
That is not a question; it is a statement.
In view of the gross exploitation of health workers—
That matter was raised yesterday on the Order of Business.
—will the Taoiseach introduce legislation?
We cannot have matters repeated every day. That question was raised yesterday on the Order of Business. I am ruling it out today. Deputy Timmins.
I am asking a question about young doctors who are employed in the health care services.
We cannot have a repeat of questions asked yesterday on the same legislation.
Because I want to give an opportunity to other Deputies.
There is nothing in the rules, a Cheann Comhairle. I want you to rule on the question of that.
The Deputy is using up time on the Order of Business. I will conclude the Order of Business if this disorder continues.
When will we get legislation to deal with the gross exploitation of young doctors in the health services?
Is that legislation promised?
As I stated yesterday, the Department of Health and Children will review the present NCHD contract with the Irish Medical Organisation this year and the recent decision of the European Parliament will be part of that decision.
When will the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Bill be published? Will it be published before or after the DART service to Greystones becomes operational?
The Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Bill will be published next summer.
I am sure the Taoiseach will join with me in wishing the Irish team well this evening. Is he aware that it was announced this morning on "The Marian Finucane Show" that he is intervening personally to ensure—
The Deputy should ask a question appropriate to the Order of Business.
—the Irish people see the match this evening?
I will even play.
I think the Taoiseach is kicking a few balls in the air.
(Mayo): As we are obliged by the Northern Ireland multi-party agreement to introduce amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1935, what is the position in relation to the Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Amendment) Bill which is on the list of promised legislation for this term?
It is to be published this session. That is still the latest position.
I want to ask the Taoiseach about two matters. The Children Bill, 1999, has been published for some time.
It is its third anniversary.
What is delaying its introduction to the House? When can we expect it? When can we expect the long promised White Paper on early childhood education?
The Bill has been published and, therefore, when it is taken is a matter for the Whips. I do not know if there is a problem with it. If there is, I will look into it. I do not have a date for the White Paper but I will check and communicate with the Deputy.
When does the Taoiseach expect to publish the promised legislation to establish a single regulator for the financial services industry?
The matter is under consideration by the Government.
Is it sorted out?
When is it proposed to make time available for discussion in the House on the present state of plans for the celebration of the millennium?
That is a matter for the Whips.
It is. Will the Taoiseach inquire as to whether, where large sums are being spent on public events, the State is retaining performance rights in relation to the future performance of anything that is heavily subsidised?
The Taoiseach is maintaining the performance rights.
I am referring, for example, to the fact that a large grant – larger than the total grant to opera – has been made available for the production of Handel's Messiah.
The Deputy should consider tabling a parliamentary question.
Will the State own the rights to the future performance of any—
The Deputy should seek that information by way of parliamentary question.
I am anxious to avoid a fiasco.
It is a valid point. I will look at it.
On promised legislation, what has happened to the promised adoption contact register?
The heads of the Bill are in preparation in the Department. They are expected to be cleared before Christmas and the Bill will be published some time next year. I do not have a date for it.
I draw the attention of Deputy Joe Higgins to the fact that he should remain seated until called upon by the Chair. Deputy Joe Higgins.
(Dublin West): Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, just when I was beginning to think I was invisible. When the Taoiseach is talking to the Turkish Prime Minister about freeing up the television signals for the football match, would he also ask him to stop the persecution of trades unionists?
That is not in order on the Order of Business. The Deputy should deal with that matter in another way.
Today's newspapers indicate that the Taoiseach, because of his concern about refugees and asylum seekers, has set up an interdepartmental committee under his stewardship.
We had a discussion on this last evening.
Could he tell the House why the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Donnell, is not on that committee given her—
That matter is not in order on the Order of Business.
Will Deputy Owen resume her seat? Deputy Sargent.
Maidir le reachtaíocht atá geallta, a Cheann Comhairle, tá ceist agam mar gheall ar—
Is she a political refugee?
Tá Fine Gael ag cur isteach orm, a Cheann Comhairle.
Tá ceist agam mar gheall ar an Irish energy centre Bill. Seo an geimhreadh agus beidh suim ag go leor daoine in usáid fuinnimh. Dúirt an Taoiseach that heads of the Bill would be ready July 1999. An bhfuil aon dul chun cinn ar sin? Cathain a fhoilseofar an Bille?
The heads are in preparation at the Department but they are not expected to be completed until Easter. The Bill will be published during the summer of next year.
July 1999 a dúirt tú.
It will actually be published in the autumn of next year.
Has the draft scheme of the land registry Bill been considered by all Departments and has the Government approved it for drafting?
The heads of the Bill are expected at the end of the year, they are not yet completed.
The Government's press release in respect of its legislative programme states that the draft general scheme of the Bill has been circulated to Departments for observations. Is the Taoiseach retreating from that position and stating that the heads have not yet even been considered?
The draft heads of the Bill have been circulated for observations but that process is not yet completed.
How long ago were they circulated?
Deputy Bruton is correct in stating that the heads have been circulated. I hope they will be cleared before the end of the year.
Is it correct that there has been no progress on this matter since 27 September?
I assume that progress has been made and that observations are being made in the Departments and will be returned to the relevant Minister in order that the heads can be completed before the end of the year.
Is the Taoiseach aware that delays in the Land Registry are preventing the building of houses?
We cannot discuss this matter now.
This sort of delay is irresponsible and the Taoiseach should direct the relevant Ministers to deal with this matter immediately.
We cannot pursue this matter on the Order of Business.
The Land Registry should be processing applications but it cannot do so because it cannot recruit staff—
Further discussion on this matter is not in order.
Houses cannot be built—
Speeches and statements are not in order on the Order of Business.
I remind Deputy Bruton that the proposals attaching to this Bill to change the status of the Land Registry from a Government Department to a semi-State body were first launched in 1988. I also remind him that his party was in power for two and a half years and he could have progressed the proposals during that period.
Fianna Fáil has been in Government for nearly the entire period since 1988 so the Taoiseach cannot use that excuse.
We must conclude the Order of Business. I call Deputy Finucane
What about the farmers waiting for their headage payments?
The Taoiseach should forget about 1988.
The Taoiseach announced last week that the marine casualty investigation Bill would be introduced before December. As a result of the extreme distress caused to the relatives of those lost when theOrchidee sank, will the Government revisit that issue and try to resolve it satisfactorily during the debate on the Bill?
The marine casualty investigation Bill, which is designed to provide for new arrangements in this area, is due this session.
On section (a) – Department of Finance – of the list of promised legislation published this autumn by the Government, it was stated that the ICC Bill to provide for the sale of the ICC Bank was due to be published before the end of this session. Where stands the Bill?
The Bill was published on 8 November.